Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Where are they now?

Mr Smith reads that "'Cushy jobs' do not await MPs who lose their seat, the report suggests. Some MPs struggle to find a new job after losing their seat and many end up earning less than they did in the House of Commons, a study suggests. Of those who lost their seat, only 20% found a new job straight away and 40% earned less after leaving. The report shows the idea that there are "hundreds of ex-MPs walking into cushy and lucrative jobs is rubbish," says co-author Kevin Theakston."

Mr Smith is not sure what that says about the calibre of Westminster MPs once they leave the "House," but he is happy to report that former Conservative MSP Phil Gallie has obviously found something to do with his time having been selected to contest the Central Ayrshire constituency at the next Westminster General Election whenever it comes.

Mr Gallie has represented part of the seat previously as a Westminster MP before losing it and then being elected to the Scottish Parliament. But Mr Smith seems to recall that Euro sceptic Mr Gallie left Holyrood expressing an interest in getting himself elected to the European Parliament.

Obviously that hasn't proved too easy so far then, but Mr Smith thinks he really doesn't have much hope of winning back his old seat either which is now held by Labour with a majority of over ten thousand votes.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Navel Gazing

So Liberal Democrat Party Leadership contender Nick Clegg MP has suggested that the Lib Dems were "too inward looking" under the leadership of Sir Menzies Campbell MP.

Mr Smith is amazed at his honesty, but would suggest that on occasion nothing can beat a bit of navel gazing. But Mr Smith has one question to ask those Lib Dems who were involved in this activity ... did they find any fluff ... Mr Smith loves it when you find a bit of fluff ... during a bit of navel gazing.

English votes for English MPs.

So the Conservatives have finally come up with the answer to the West Lothian question and will propose ending the right of Westminster MPs from Scotland to vote on matters only affecting England.

Mr Smith says about time too.

The only justification for allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English matters after devolution for Scotland was that it was a less anomalous contradiction than existed (from a Scottish perspective) under the last Conservative Government when hundreds of English MPs got to vote on matters only affecting Scotland. And that anomaly ended eight years ago with devolution for Scotland.

No democrat could argue other than that the current position is untenable and probably explains why an opinion poll suggests that a third of English voters now support Scotland becoming independent.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Bush's Baghdad Palace.

Mr Smith notes the renewed interest in the media about the new American Embassy in Baghdad.

A recent article by the Guardian reported that "Rising from the dust of the city's Green Zone it is destined, at $592m (£300m), to become the biggest and most expensive US embassy on earth... It will cover 104 acres (42 hectares) of land, about the size of the Vatican. It will include 27 separate buildings and house about 615 people behind bomb-proof walls. Most of the embassy staff will live in simple, if not quite monastic, accommodation in one-bedroom apartments."

Already it has been christened Bush's Palace, a parody of the naming of the palaces that were used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But if things in Iraq go wrong and America is forced to withdraw then who will be left to occupy the 27 buildings? This is one building project that makes the £420 million Scottish Parliament building look like a wise long term property investment. The only "insurgents" they have to worry about in downtown Edinburgh are the local neds, and they only carry Buckie.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Cutting out waste.

Mr Smith reads that Scottish Liberal Democrat MP, Jo Swinson, is taking the fight to the supermarkets by demanding that they cut back on needless packagong on the food and other stuff they sell.

All very well and good and thinks the idea has merit. However, he would like to suggest another campaign ... one aimed at cutting out needless political waste ... and Mr Smith suggets we start wth party hackette Ms Swinson whose only real claim to political fame is that she was dumped by former Lib Dem Leader Ming "the Merciless" Campbell because of her poor performance as Lib Dem Shadow Spokesperson for Scotland.

And incidentally, she managed to claim over one hundred and forty thousand pounds in Westminster expenses last year.

Friday, 26 October 2007

On expenses.

So, Labour MP for Aberdeen North Frank Doran MP, claimed over one hundred and seventy thousand pounds in expenses in the last financial year, topping the list of expenses claimed by Scotland's 59 Westminster MPs, with the Speaker of the House, Michael Martin MP, perhaps unsurprisingly bringing up the rear of the political Scotia Nostra with a more modest claim.

Now Mr Smith has no problem with MPs making claims for running constituency offices or even having to fly back and forth to London and beyond, but he is concerned at the lack of transparency in the process governing how MPs spend public money, by for example by employing family members, claiming for London accommodation, which they then sell on making a tidy profit, and even making the odd undetailed car mileage claim.

The public scrutiny is welcomed, but we need more information to make an informed judgement about what our elected representatives are up to.

Turkeys and Christmas

Straight from the "turkeys voting for Christmas" category come the latest comments from Labour peer and MSP George Foulkes in the House of Lords on 15th October 2007:

"Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for not giving a birthday present to the noble Baroness. I tell my noble friend, the noble Baroness and her colleagues that the introduction of proportional representation in Scotland has been an absolute tragedy. We have seen chaos, confusion and cuts. At local government level, we see the Liberal Democrats in an unholy alliance with the Scottish National Party. Will my noble friend assure us that, because of this experience, we will stick to the tried and tested system of first past the post, which has given us stability in this country for decades and centuries?"

Hang on wasn't our George elected to the Scottish Parliament as a Regional List MSP ... using a form of proportional representation? Obviously not a personal "tragedy" for our George then.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Well done Douglas.

Mr Smith reads that former Secretary of State for Scotland, Douglas Alexander MP, has faced calls for his resignation over the "voting fiasco" at May's Scottish Parliament elections when over 140,000 votes cast by the punters were ruled ineligible because of confusion over the voting system for the Holyrood election. Indeed, he has now apologised for his role in the affair.

Now, Mr Smith may be cynical but he suspects given that the SNP effectively "won" May's elections, that the SNP would probably have received even more votes, as would all of the opposition parties, if it hadn't been for the "confusion" over the voting system.

Amidst May's chaos, the Labour share of the vote only fell by a couple of percentage points whilst the SNP's rose by nearly 10%. If it hadn't been for Douglas' mistakes Labour might have lost even more seats in May's elections.

So the real question is perhaps not whether Douglas and other Labour Ministers acted incompetently in the run up to May, but whether they deliberately allowed confusion to be created knowing that their own party would be the main beneficiary of the chaos that ensued? Mr Smith thinks that in some quarters Douglas may actually be getting a pat on the back for his creativity and saving Labour's bacon.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Muddle not a fiddle II ?

Mr Smith is reminded that these are the words that lead to the eventual downfall of then Labour Scottish First Minister, Henry McLeish MSP, over an office expenses controversy, but now it appears that PM Gordon Brown may also have fallen into the same trap.

"PRIME MINISTER Gordon Brown is facing accusations he has breached Westminster expenses rules after subletting his constituency office to party colleagues. The Scottish MP signed a £1600 "sub-under-lease", which allows Labour activists to use part of his taxpayer-funded office in Kirkcaldy. But Commons rules state MPs "may not sublet accommodation which you lease and pay for out of the allowances". The prime minister is now "clarifying" his office sublet agreement with the Westminster authorities."

Given all of the advice which MPs get, and can get access to just by asking for it, it makes you wonder how they manage to get it so wrong so often, especially where taxpayers money is indirectly involved. Mr Smith seems to recall that Labour MSP Marilyn Livingstone also has offices in the same building. Could there be more to come on this story?

Time off.

Mr Smith reads that "(Westminster) MPs will have an additional four days of holiday in 2008 compared with this year, it has been announced. They will take 91 days - or 18 working weeks - off, Harriet Harman, the leader of the Commons, has confirmed."

Now Mr Smith realises that many MPs use the "time off" to spend more time on constituency duties which is all very well and good, but wouldn't it be nice to have 18 weeks out of the office every year? Perhaps the proletariat should get to vote on the plans. After all, we do pay their wages.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Members' Interests.

Mr Smith has already disclosed some of the more interesting "leisure" pursuits of our Members of the Scottish Parliament, not least MSP Jamie Stone who enjoyed the odd (emphasis on odd) "edible funghi" and Karen Gillon's predilection for Cliff Richard.

But Mr Smith couldn't let pass the interest of Independent MSP Margo MacDonald who lists "country music, Hibs, George Clooney, Jim (Sillars - ex Labour and SNP MP - and her husband) and old movies."

An eclectic mix but Mr Smith likes the fact that old timer Jim ranks along with George (and less flatteringly Hibs) in Margo's pecking order.

Sorry Margo ... I couldn't find a pic of Jim.

Unparliamentary language.

Mr Smith highlights that the arrival of the "new politics" in Scotland has been accompanied by a commensurate reduction in the standard and quality of political insults on the part of First Minister Alex Salmond who has variously refered to: PM Gordon Brown as a "feartie" for not calling a General Election; and labelling former Sun Editor Kevin McKenzie as a "tube."

Very unparliamentary language which will probably not go down too well with the Scottish Parliament's Old Etonian Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson should Oor Alex choose to use the phrases in the Holyrood Chamber.

Monday, 22 October 2007


Mr Smith highlights the fact that this post represents his two hundredth since "Mr Smith Goes To Holyrood" joined the blogsphere on 24th July 2007.

They said it wouldn't last ... it has, and Mr Smith hopes that his readers and contributors are finding this blog a useful antidote to the spin surrounding Scotland and its "new politics."

Mr Smith will continue to try and live up to his mantra that "the only causes worth fighting for are the lost causes." Sadly, there are still too many of them in Scottish political life.

Supplementing your pension.

Mr Smith notes that Members of the Scottish Parliament are to be given the opportunity of "voting" themselves an increased final salary contribution pension.

Wouldn't it be nice to vote yourself a final salary pension equivalent to one fortieth of your salary for each year of service you have, even if you had to contribute 10% of your salary up front?

Yet again though it is the taxpayer that is picking up most of the tab. Nice work if you can get it.

Hey good looking.

Mr Smith reads that "On the ballot paper, a picture is worth a thousand votes ... Research shows candidates’ looks influence choices at the polling station."

Mmmm. So it is now official, but how many of our current crop of MSPs would want to have their pictures gracing the ballot papers on which they rely on to get themselves elected? After all they aren't exactly "eye candy," even for political anoraks.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Beancounters Wanted.

Mr Smith reads an advert for the Scottish Government seeking to recruit a Head of Internal Audit,a Financial Controller, and a Project Accountant.

The advert features the picture of a pound coin and the strapline "ake everyone count." Very clever.

But is Mr Smith alone in asking why these posts are being appointed now? Are they new or are the previous incumbents swimming with the fishes in the Forth? We deserve to be told.


Mr Smith never ceases to be amazed what you find out by dipping into the deliberations of their Lordships in the House of Lords.

The latest
insight comes from Labour Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan (Labour): “My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that there are light fittings which are inappropriate for energy-saving light bulbs; namely, dimmer switches? A lot of households and offices have them. Before the existing wasteful light bulbs are phased out, there needs to be a proper replacement which can be accommodated within these fitting which are common in many households and buildings.”

Way too much detail.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Black Sheep.

So, Mr Smith reads that American Vice President Dick Cheney, and Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama are related, albeit as "cousins eight times removed."

Mr Smith likes the response of the Obama camp ... that every family has its "black sheep," in reference to VP Cheney.

Nuff said then. Forget about spin, the response was pure class.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Wood for the plastic.

The irony really doesn't escape Mr Smith. It obviously did with the Forestry Commission.

"THE Forestry Commission was under fire ... after it placed an order for more than £52,000 worth of plastic bags."

Even the reference to fires and forests ... get it?

Why not just go the whole hog and replace all the real trees with plastic ones, afterall we are approaching Christmas don't you know.

"Bolshie" Sturgeon.

Mr Smith read the latest very tame profile piece on SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP, which did little to shine any light on what actually makes the inscrutable Nicola actually tick.

The nearest we got to any earth shattering revelations is that at her old school "... Greenwood Academy she liked English, history and modern studies and hated maths, physics and other sciences" and that she was a bit "bolshie."

Was that it? Perhaps we should just forget about interviewing her again until she takes up deep sea diving or jumping off of skyscrapers?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Court-ing disaster.

So, "Personal care support for more than 9000 elderly Scots was thrown into doubt by a legal ruling which sharply criticised SNP ministers for refusing to explain the flagship policy in court."

Mr Smith is no friend of the SNP Government on this issue given how they have handled their involvement, but Mr Smith thinks the most fundamental issue lies with the fact that the Scottish Parliament as a whole produced a badly worded piece of legislation which was then capable of being taken apart so comprehensively in court.

Mr Smith hopes that MSPs all learn the lessons of this and pass better legislation, but he suspect that in these days of a more politically fragmented Scotland, the Scottish Government will find itself in court more often trying to defend bad law.

Mick bites his tongue.

So, Mr Smith reads that the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin MP, aka "Gorbals Mick," is to opening a new £7.7 million Press Gallery (their logo left) in the Commons for the members of the press.

"Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker, might have to choose his words carefully next month when he officially opens the refurbished press accommodation at the House of Commons."

The irony isn't lost on Mr Smith given Mick's frosty encounters with the press over a number of years, but who knows they might just be able to bury the hatchet from this point onwards. The attraction for Mick was presumably having a plaque on the wall of the Press Gallery in perpetuity saying he had opened it.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Pond life.

So, "PONDS in front of the Scottish Parliament could be filled in to prevent further accidents, under proposals drawn up by Holyrood officials. "

One of the strangest justifications in the article for the change is that it will save £75,000 a year. Isn't the fact that tourists keep falling into them reason enough to fill them in?

It's a pity though ... there was nothing like a paddle in them during the summer to cool you down.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


"A WEALTHY businessman was suffering from delusions when he left the Conservative Party more than £8 million in his will, a High Court judge has ruled. Branislav Kostic lacked "testamentary capacity" when he cancelled an earlier will in which he left everything to his son, Zoran, his only child, Mr Justice Henderson said. Ruling on Zoran's legal challenge, the judge upheld a 1974 will, made when nobody disputed Mr Kostic had full mental capacity, and under which Zoran was the sole beneficiary. Belgrade-born Mr Kostic died aged 80 in 2005."

It's official: only nutters leave money to the Conservative Party, ... or indeed any other party when they die. Maybe it's the reference to the word "party" that is confusing them?


So, Sir Ming Campbell has finally bitten the bullet and decided to step down as UK Leader of the Liberal Democrats, but the whole episode has reinforced in Mr Smith's mind just how ruthless the members of the third party of UK politics can actually be.

Never mind rats in a sack, the typical Liberal Democrat MP would happily sell their granny if it won them the most obscure local government by-election.

Sir Ming is better off out of their sphere of influence and hopes he enjoys his retirement from Leadership. But one thing Mr Smith only realised recently is how increasingly alike Sir Ming is becoming to the 1960s comedy character Steptoe. Separated at birth anyone?

Just not tourism.

Mr Smith thinks that the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, is fast becoming the John Prescott of Scottish politics, not so much because of the "mis-speaks" which JP was famous for, but more because of the "mis-intellectualisations" which Mr Secretary is committing with increasing regularity. The latest of these are his comments in relation to new laws related to so called "kerb crawling."

The Minister peppered a whole series of interviews with the expression that kerb crawling "wasn't tourism ... it's exploitation." Now Mr Smith is pretty certain that no-one has ever defended kerb crawling because it helps tourism, so he wonders how exactly this thought came to lodge itself in the Minister's mind, let alone why he then thought it appropriate to repeat the point ... over and over again.

Mr Smith thinks the the Minister should go and lie down for a while, as should his PR advisers.

Monday, 15 October 2007

On expenses.

Mr Smith sees that the Scottish Parliament is looking to recruit two Allowances Administrators and a Travel and Expenses Administrator.

Must be all those expenses claims then? Or are they being employed to put more effort into checking the expenses claims that are already submitted?


So, cult Scottish author Irvine Welsh is to have a meeting with Scottish Government Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Kenny MacAskill to advise them what to do in relation to Scotland's "booze and blades" culture.

Mr Smith can't help but get the feeling that this is a total political gimmick, given that arguably one of the major contributors to glamorising Scotland's "booze and blades," and drug culture in the first place is none other than ... Mr Irvine Welsh. The irony is probably lost on them.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Northern Rock.

Mr Smith records the latest revelation relating to the near crash of mortgage lender Northern Rock.

Giving a statement on the issue in the House of Commons, Chancellor Alistair Darling MP
declared that “With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on Northern Rock plc. Before I start, however, I draw the House’s attention to the fact that I have informed both the Register of Members’ Interests and the Treasury’s permanent secretary that, like many others, my wife and I have a mortgage with Northern Rock, but no savings or deposits”

Just as well then or he probably would have been queuing up along with the bank’s other customers to get his cash out. But how did he manage to get away with not declaring this information until weeks after the crisis broke?

Saturday, 13 October 2007

He's a spinner.

So, a bad week for Gordon Brown, which just got even worse.

"AN ICM survey for BBC's Newsnight revealed that 61% of respondents thought that new Prime Minister Mr Brown was as big a spinner as Mr Blair. Indeed, some 15% thought he was more likely to spin, while 20% thought he was less likely."

Mr Smith would suggest that the public probably aren't surprised at the fact that Mr Brown has been attempted to spin ... what they are surprised about is that he doing it so BADLY.

£136,677 a year.

That's apparently how much Michael Martin MP, or "Gorbals Mick" as he has been nicknamed by some, earns in his capacity as Speaker of the House of Commons. But not enough for him to pay for his own legal advice.

"MICHAEL Martin, the Commons Speaker, was last night accused of adopting the "airs and graces of the ancien regime" after it emerged he spent almost £22,000 of taxpayers' money on libel lawyers to counter negative press reports."

As the old saying goes: you can take the man out of the Gorbals but not the Gorbals out of the man. But why should the tax payer pick up the tab just because Mr Speaker doesn't like some of the stories that are being written about him? Come to think of it, this might also explain why the Speaker has been so keen to stop paying the salary of Respect MP George Galloway.


According to the Times: “The number of civil servants earning up to £270,000 has jumped by 40 per cent in the past six years despite Government claims that it has cut back tens of thousands of Whitehall posts, it was disclosed yesterday. In the same period average salaries for mandarins in the most senior grades have increased by 23 per cent, with the total pay bill rising by 71.44 per cent between 2000-06, according to data from the Senior Salaries Review Body.”

Who said public service doesn’t pay?

Friday, 12 October 2007

Oh! George.

It appears that Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes is losing friends fast.

Fresh from antagonising just about everyone in the Scottish Parliament and helping to cost the Scottish Labour Party nearly £20,000 in a pay off to facilitate the early departure of the Scottish Labour Party’s former spokesman, Brian Lironi, it appears that George’s interventions in the House of Lords are now starting to upset their Lordships. From the House of Lords Hansard for 8th October 2007:

“Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Labour): My Lords, will my noble friend—

“Noble Lords: Oh!

“Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Labour): My Lords, thank you for that warm welcome back. Noble Lords may actually agree with me, in a few moments ..."

How long can this go on?

Call him Al.

With his trans-Atlantic interests Mr Smith read the news that former American Vice President Al Gore is being called upon to throw his name into the hat as a Democratic candidate in the 2008 US Presidential Elections.

“A GROUP of self-styled "grass-roots Democrats" sent a full-page open letter to Al Gore in the New York Times, begging the former vice president to enter the US presidential race. Draftgore's advert, which says 136,000 people have signed an online petition, was published yesterday, two days before this year's Nobel Peace Prize is expected to be announced. Gore has been nominated for the prize because of his campaign highlighting global warming.”

Mr Smith suspects that Al probably has better things to be doing with his time. Anyone for a Nobel Prize?

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Poll dancing.

Mr Smith reads in the Herald Diary that "QUALIFYING in the "It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it" category is a recent tour of entertainment establishments by Glasgow's licensing board members, including leather-jacketed Labour councillor Philip Braat, one of the younger breed of new councillors at the City Chambers. Once in the exotic dance club he was approached by one of the young ladies offering to dance with him. He shook his head, but so keen was she that she offered to dance with the young councillor without charging. However, a police officer accompanying the board discreetly stepped-in, advising the lady that they weren't customers but were on duty. Whether Councillor Braat welcomed this intervention is unclear."

Having seen the picture of Councillor Braat on the City of Glasgow Council website he somehow doubts that he would have been offered a free dance by any true professional dancer. Unless, of course they knew his background was in the law and they were in a bit of bother.

Mr Galloway's pay packet.

Mr Smith reads that Respect MP George Galloway is experiencing a bit of a cash flow problem at the moment apparently.

"THANKS to Michael Martin the Speaker, I haven't had any wages since July, another reason for my crushing disappointment at Brown's deflating bounce. If the election had been on, I would have got paid at last. If I'd lost I'd have had a year's wages in lieu. If I'd won, my suspension for 18 days (which will have lasted well over 100 days) would never have to be served and I'd be back on the payroll. I have many mouths to feed. Do you think the editor would be interested in a column twice a week? "

Mr Smith is sure that Mr Galloway has some friends that he can "tap" for a sub, but the way he has been treated by the House of Commons' authorities really smells, whether you like George Galloway or not.

In confidence?

So Mr Smith reads of yet another fallout between the Scottish and UK Governments on the issue of additional support for Scottish farmers after the latest foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The issue now seems to be the fact that the Scottish Government appear to feel there are no restrictions on the usage of communications between themselves and their UK counterparts even at civil service level. Mr Smith suggests the Scottish Government won't be given that option for much longer and that effective communication between Scotland and the rest of the UK will suffer as a result.

If you can't comment in "confidence" on issues before decisions are made at a governmental or ministerial level then that can only and will only lead to poor government.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Behind bars.

Mr Smith reads that nearly two thirds of Scottish prisoners end up being convicted of a further offence within two years of being released from their sentences.

Mr Smith notes that Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, is fond of banging on about what he thinks are the three causes of crime in Scotland: drinks, drugs and deprivation, the three D's as he refers to them. It would appear that he is totally discounting the effect of the fourth factor which is prison itself and which coincidentally happens to be the one out of all of these issues that the Scottish Government has the most direct control over.

It seems to Mr Smith the the SNP Government should be making prison work better so that it stops being the revolving door which it has become for so many of our fellow Scots, even if they do have criminal tendencies.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Norvege. Nil points.

Mr Smith notes the latest set back to Scotland's nationalistic "new politics" with the revelation that "NORWAY is to end formal diplomatic representation in Scotland after more than 50 years, with the loss of half a dozen jobs."

Mr Smith appreciates the irony of the Nor-weegies decision which means that Scots will have to get their fix of Norwegian from the annual running of the Eurovision Song Contest from this point onwards. But more seriously, in these days of pressured governmental budgets how many more countries that currently have consular offices in Edinburgh will be thinking of downsizing or even closing their offices altogether. Mr Smith suspects that Norway may just be the first of many.

On your bike.

Mr Smith is reminded of the old adage, "do as I do, not as I say" in relation to disclosures about the travel habits of Ministers in the Scottish Government.

"SCOTTISH ministers have failed to cut their use of official cars, despite the SNP putting the environment at the heart of its political agenda. The slimmed-down Scottish Government made 137 car trips per member between May and August, compared to 135 under the previous Scottish Executive a year ago ... In total, the 18-strong SNP government clocked up 2,471 journeys compared to 2,711 by the 20-strong Labour-Liberal Democrat Executive last summer. Fewer than half of the SNP government travelled by train at all, including Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon. Stewart Stevenson, the transport minister, was the most frequent rail traveller, making six journeys, followed by Linda Fabiani, the Europe minister, with three."

It seems that the new regime has forgotten all of the criticisms it made of its predecessor. Mr Smith thinks if it is good enough for Tory Leader David Cameron, how about it Mr Salmond?

Monday, 8 October 2007

Riaghaltas na h-Alba.

Mr Smith reads that "IT IS not only the Scottish Government, it is also Riaghaltas na h-Alba. The re-branding exercise by Alex Salmond's administration will see signs on six Scottish Government buildings given a makeover in Gaelic. "

Mr Smith seems to recall that at the last census there were only around 60,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland, with an estimated loss of 1,500 speakers each year. Is the best way of tackling that cultural loss to be rebranding Scottish Executive ... sorry ... Scottish Government buildings?

Knife crime.

Mr Smith reads that the cops have decided that the best way to clampdown on Scotland's appalling record on knife crime to to ... send out 150,000 post cards asking people not to carry knives.

"POLICE are sending postcards to 150,000 homes in the latest bid to combat Scotland's lethal blade culture. Strathclyde Police are using the tactic to warn people who carry knives they face up to four years in jail if they are caught. Chief Inspector Andy McKay said: "The card sends a clear message to those who are carrying knives that we are coming to get them.""

Mr Smith thinks the idea is nothing more than a gimmick which if it wasn't such an important issue would be laughable. Perhaps the cops should put more effort into actually catching the criminals rather than wasting paper and money.

Away from home.

Mr Smith reads of the latest controversy behind the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance Scheme as used by Members of the Scottish Parliament.

"TAXPAYERS are paying an extra £500 per month to house an MSP in a hotel in Edinburgh because she has been barred from staying in her own flat in the city. Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant returned to Holyrood during May after a four-year gap and planned to be based in a flat she owns in the capital. However, Parliament chiefs have now informed her she can no longer claim the allowance to help pay the mortgage on the flat because of rules preventing MSPs from charging for flats they already own."

Now is it just Mr Smith or is the real issue here the fact that an MSP has chosen to rent out a flat which they could have lived in rather than rent out privately? Mr Smith thinks the ball is firmly in the court of Ms Grant who perhaps should be more focused on being a Member of the Scottish Parliament rather than trying to become a property mogul.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

He's the Joker.

Mr Smith reads that in the interests of the country as a whole, the current Prime Minister, His Imperious Highness Gordon Brown MP, has ruled out a General Election.

Mr Smith thinks the whole thing is sad and sums up everything that is just plain bad about British Politics.

There's something stinks in the state of Denmark, sorry, Britain. And it will take two years to vote out the aroma.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

On the Grapevine.

Mr Smith reads that Councillors in West Lothian have been accused of suggesting a proposed town twinning arrangement with Grapevine near Dallas in the US in order to justify a £10,000 "junket."

Mr Smith can hardly believe that anyone would dare suggest such a thing, especially by those reputable figures from the world of Scottish local government.

Piggy bank.

So the Scottish Government have managed to get their hands on an extra billion pounds being held by the UK Government which should give them increased budget flexibility over the next few years.

"The Scottish Government has won its battle for control of a £1 billion fund of Scottish money held by the Treasury. The unprecedented deal thrashed out between Nationalist and Labour ministers will allow the SNP access to the money over the next three years. "

All that Mr Smith has to say is that it must have been a very big piggy bank.

Friday, 5 October 2007

On expenses.

Mr Smith reads that “MSPs claimed almost £500,000 in extra allowances last year, taking the bill to more than £10 million. New figures published today show the bill for MSPs' staff costs, office, travel, accommodation and other expenses rose by nearly £500,000 - up from £9,768,794 to £10,261,285.”

It really shoots a major hole in the theory that MSPs need more cash to do their jobs. Over half a million pounds was paid to MSPs under the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance Scheme which allows some of them to profit from buying property at the taxpayers expense and then being able to pocket a profit when they sell it.

Over the same time period expenses claims for staff costs actually FELL.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Going green.

Mr Smith seems to think that Green MSP Robin Harper may be regretting agreeing to be involved along with four other MSPs in a green challenge to try and improve the environment credentials of his home.

"Robin Harper, the co-leader of the Green Party, has a less environmentally friendly home than colleagues in the SNP, Labour and Conservative parties, a survey revealed."

Mr Smith thinks that Mr Harper has been stitched up, but at least he has raised awareness of the whole issue, at the cost of a bit of his reputation.


Mr Smith has followed the Scottish Labour Party's demands over the last couple of days for increased funding for the Leader of the Scottish Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament, Wendy Alexander MSP with increasing bemusement. He is glad that someone pointed out the contradictions in the Labour argument.

"Labour's demand for more public cash to operate as an opposition party at Holyrood was attacked as "rank hypocrisy". Eight years ago Labour at Westminster abruptly cut the opposition support which had been expected for Holyrood, prompting a feisty debate in which ministers dismissed claims the democratic process was being short-changed. "

Those that live by the sword ....Mr Smith thinks that a lot of our elected representatives seem to have developed a strange form of collective amnesia about anything that happened before May, never mind May 2003.

Mercury rising.

Mr Smith wonders why former Conservative Member of Parliament now Lord Michael Forsyth of Drumlean seems to have developed an interest in all matters relating to the European Union, mercury barometers and thermometers. He has asked a couple of recent Questions in the House of Lords, including "Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether Parliament will be given an opportunity to vote on the proposed European Union regulation banning the sale of new mercury barometer sand thermometers."

Mr Smith is glad that Lord Forsyth has highlighted the latest European onslaught on British sovereignty.